31 October 2018

Few have heard the story of Stalin’s Chicken in which Soviet novelist Chingiz Aitmatov recounts the manner in which Stalin allegedly taught his counselors how to rule. As it goes, in 1935, Stalin held a live chicken in front of the perplexed group. Causing it incredible pain, he plucked the chicken’s feathers out. Then, placing the traumatized and naked chicken on the floor, he opened his hand and offered it grain to eat. To the bewilderment of his onlookers, the chicken followed him and ate out of his hand. The implied lesson to his staff was: you could do anything you want to “the people” so long as they believe you are the source of their survival.

In varying degrees, this ‘paternalistic’ approach to rule remains reflected in Ukraine’s legislation. It makes few references to standards of due diligence and the juridical “reasonable man”. The paternalistic approach is also reflected in Ukraine’s populist politics as well as the preamble to Ukraine’s current Housing Code (upon which the concept of awarding servicemen and women permanent housing is based). It reads:

As a result of the victory of the Great October Socialist revolution in our country, the necessary prerequisites for the resolution of one of the major social problems – satisfaction of need of workers for housing were created. 

Appreciating the Leninist ideas of creation of Communist society and raising the material and cultural standards of living of the people, the Soviet State is gradually realizing the housing development programme developed by the Communist Party.”[1]

There are over 47,000 servicepersons waiting for defence housing in Ukraine…

Not a single Euro-Atlantic state promises its servicepersons permanent housing. Even the Russian Federation has moved away from its waiting list promises. But, despite its “decommunization processes”, Ukraine continues to make these utopian, populist promises.

Shortly after Europe’s ongoing (but seemingly forgotten) war in Eastern Ukraine began, Ukrainian citizens were encouraged to go fight for democratic freedom on the frontlines. Patriotic feelings aside, they were also baited by promises of subsidies, land plots and prioritized deliverance of housing. To many of those who managed to return alive, this priority level appears, de facto, virtually meaningless.

A “simple”41-year old soldier named Ihor Stadnytskiy serves a case and point. In 2014, when the Russians invaded Eastern Ukraine, he went to the front and was allotted the 19th place on a defence housing queue for permanent housing in Lviv. Over four years later, his place in line remains unchanged. His living conditions remain the same. In familiar Soviet style, he shares a 40m2 apartment with 3 families and 4 kids; despite legal assurances and political statements of support.

Recently, at the presentation of NAKOs defence housing research this unsung hero, described brutal battles, saving the lives of 10 men and recovering a Zenit twin barrel autocannon all the while being shelled by the enemy. The presentation was accompanied by NAKO Committee members, a representative of the MoD Main Housing Directorate and the author of a disturbing report on Ukraine’s defence housing system written by Ukraine’s Accounting Chamber.

Promises made should be kept, particularly when they pertain to those who lay their lives on the line for the security of their own state. Yet, Ukraine’s unreformed defence housing system, poor governance and embedded corrupt schemes (ranging from arbitrary construction “planning” to misappropriation of property and funds to waiting list manipulations) continue to feed the post-Soviet mindset and those who do not respect “the people”, let alone the rule of law.

Defence housing is one of the most draining problems facing Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence today. Under current conditions, it will take over 600 years to satisfy the demand. This is why NAKO suggests that It is time for Ukraine to move away from obsolete and impossible Soviet era promises. Rather, it should provide its service people effective compensation, defence-housing monetization, and, capability-based planning.

With Ukraine’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections just around the corner, it will be interesting to see which candidates will adopt capability and human-security-based approaches to resolving the defence housing question. Even more interesting is how the people will vote.

Recalling Stalin’s chicken, its corruption is less obvious. It shows no moral courage. By taking hand outs and charity, it puts forth no real defense to the aggression forced upon it. Having been abused, it does not rise to a higher status of purpose with the knowledge and understanding gained by its experience.  It does not believe, but it depends, and, simply comes back for more.

 

Dr. Lada Roslycky

Research and Advocacy Manager

The Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO)

 

[1] HOUSING CODE OF UKRAINIAN SSR

Document 5464-X, effective, current edition – The latest edition dated 25 – 07 – 2018, rationale 2443 – VIII

Source: https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/lada-roslycky-enough-populism-in-armed-forces-housing.html